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Nelson: Why you should attend symposium about Owasco Lake’s water quality | Lifestyles

Nelson: Why you should attend symposium about Owasco Lake’s water quality | Lifestyles

Why should you attend a gathering describing Owasco Lake’s water quality? Why should you even care about the status of that water quality?

Well, if you consume public water, its source is Owasco Lake. The city of Auburn and the town of Owasco draw water from the lake to supply over 40,000 residents in Cayuga County. If you enjoy fishing, swimming, boating, waterskiing, tubing and other water sports, good water quality is essential. We should all be watershed aware — aware of the human activities taking place throughout the lake’s large 208-square-mile watershed, and whose byproducts eventually flow downstream into one lake. Be aware that clean water is also vital to our region’s economy, including agriculture, industry, lodging, restaurants and tourism. Less tourists, less jobs and lower property values are possible outcomes of not wanting to visit or live near an unusable lake.

To add to your awareness, please join your neighbors for our 10th annual “In Plain English” Bob Brower Scientific Symposium, a free Zoom event, from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 19. Five presenters will provide their research highlighting the lake’s current state, its ongoing threats and the innovative efforts to protect it:

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• “Status of Owasco Lake” by Dr. John Halfman, professor of environmental studies, Finger Lakes Institute, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva: Every summer since 2005, his water testing has monitored the health of the lake and its tributaries. John’s annual report provides expansive factual information coupled with his experienced insight into the reasons for changes in the lake’s condition and his recommendations for its improvement.

• “”Salinization of Adirondack Waters by Road Salt: A Statewide Issue” by Dr. Dan Kelting: He will detail his extensive research on the effects of road salt runoff into our upstate lakes. He is the director of the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College.

• “Our Owasco: Using Behavioral Science to Protect Owasco Lake” by Dr. John Pickering and Toneya McIntosh, of Evidn, an applied behavioral science company. These scientists’ success utilizing behavioral science within the agricultural community in Australia is being adapted here through collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and farmers in the Owasco Lake watershed. The goal is to increase the usage of soil health best management practices, and better water quality for all.

• “Lake Water Level Management: Owasco Lake” by Seth Jensen, Auburn’s director of municipal utilities, and a NYS professional engineer. He will describe the techniques, rules and challenges of the competing interests for Auburn’s year-round management of the lake’s water level.

• “Hemlock Management in the Owasco Lake Watershed: Short and Long Term Solutions” by Caroline Marschner, invasive species extension associate with the New York State Hemlock Initiative, Cornell University. Like most of our area’s harmful invasive species, the tiny hemlock woolly adelgid insect was introduced by humans. The HWA is quickly infecting and killing (within two to six years) our region’s native hemlocks that prevent erosion in our steep watershed ravines and provide important shade for nearby streams’ aquatic life.

To register for the symposium, visit the Owasco Watershed Lake Association’s website, (Professional development hour continuing education credits are available: 3.0 W, 3.0 PE.)

We hope you can join us for an informative morning on March 19. It’s all about our water. 

Rick Nelson is a member of the board of directors of the Owasco Watershed Lake Association. For more information, or to join OWLA, visit